It feels like only yesterday that Uber Eats came to Long Beach, revolutionizing the way that the city brings local restaurants to their door. Then, I ordered a home-cooked Peruvian meal off Instagram and the world of home delivery was new all over again.
Chaski’s Peruvian Seasonings is Long Beach’s only contribution to the underground economy of Instagram chefs – a new wave of classically trained young caterers from South L.A. to OC who are using the platform to build their brands and subvert the financial barriers of restaurant ownership.
Follow the company on Instagram and you’ll be bombarded with daily food porn from Agustin Romo, the former executive chef at SanTana’s Peruvian tapas house Eqeko (aka Chaski!), who after leaving his post there began selling his signature spice blends and hosting Facebook live cooking demos online. Now, he spends three days a week holed up with ají peppers and potatoes in an industrial kitchen near his home in North Long Beach and does home deliveries of his rotating menus, using social media to spark interest and funnel orders.
See something you like from the deluge of both familiar (lomo saltado) and unfamiliar (carapulcra con sopa seca)? Just message, text or comment on an image with your address, order and preferred delivery time, and Chaski’s takes care of the rest. You pay when either Romo himself or one of his two friend-drivers arrives at your places, boxes of food bundled in a well-tied plastic bag like good Chinese takeout.
It’s hard to get bored with Romo’s cooking, which embraces all of Peru’s super-mezcla of influencees and flavors. If you follow his personal Instagram, you’ll see him taking Japanese language classes, folding up Argentine-looking empanadas, shopping for European pastries, pulling fresh basil from his garden for Peruvian pesto, making Korean food inspired by Long Beach produce swaps he attended—and more.
For Chaski’s, this means one Tuesday night might feature causa rellena—a potato and crab layer cake that looks like a carb-y stack of tuna tartare—with chocolate-dipped alfajores for dessert. On Thursday, it could all be switched out for a plate of the rice-and-bean tacu tacu with fried plantains and a flap of steak, plus a slice of the Peruvian take on German Black Forest cake to finish.
On Chinese New Year, Romo’s delivery menu paid homage to comida chifa, the popular fusion of Cantonese and Peruvian cooking that grew organically out of the latter country’s large Chinese population. It included taipi (a kitchen-sink stir fry), kam lu wantan (deep-fried wontons smothered in sweet and sour sauce) and chaufa de mariscos (seafood fried rice). As always, cans of Inka Cola were available on the side.
One recent Sunday, I splured on one of everything from Chaski’s Domingo Criollo lineup, a relatively new brunch development in the year-old delivery side of the business. Romo rolled up right on time with three sandwiches on not-too-crusty French bread, each stuffed with a traditional Peruvian breakfast filling, from a spin on chorizo and eggs to the sweet and soy sauce-heavy lomo (like a lomo saltado without fries).
When he dropped it off, the chef mentioned that his personal favorite was the pan con chicharrón and after downing one, I’d have to agree. Slices of yams are laid down like tomatoes on an American sub sandwich, then hunks of pork belly—dried and prehistoric-looking on the outside, warm and chewy within—are piled atop. A side of vinegary salsa criolla comes on the side for you to apply liberally as a tangy fat-cutter. ¡Es lo máximo!
Follow Chaski’s Peruvian Seasonings on Instragram @chaskisperuvianseasonings
Sarah Bennett is a freelance journalist who has spent nearly a decade covering food, music, craft beer, arts, culture and all sorts of bizarro things that interest her for local, regional and national publications.